The U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program lacks vital oversight mechanisms, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.
“Specifically, the program will operate outside the basic oversight framework provided by mechanisms like a formal cost and schedule baseline, statutory unit cost tracking, and regular reports to Congress on cost, schedule, and performance progress,” said GAO investigators.
For example, the Navy expects the program to cost $3.7 billion between 2014 and 2020 to develop and build six to 24 UCLASS drones, but it will not conduct a Milestone B review — which formally begins a system development program — until 2020. That $3.7 billion figure also exceeds the total the Navy expects to budget for the program.
Other concerns noted by GAO:
■ The Navy has abbreviated the interval between requesting design proposals and awarding a contract to eight months instead of the customary 12.
■ UCLASS heavily depends on other systems for successful development and delivery, which could create bottlenecks.
■ The Navy will have the difficult task of acting as lead integrator for three major components — the air vehicle, aircraft carrier and UCLASS control system — plus 22 other government systems, including the aircraft landing system.
“Congress should consider directing the Navy to hold a Milestone B review for the UCLASS system after the system level preliminary design review is complete,” GAO recommended. “If the Navy does not comply, Congress should consider limiting the amount of funding available for the UCLASS system until an acquisition program baseline is provided.”
The Navy did not concur with this recommendation.